Dairy, in particular milk is a confusing topic for Mums. Our babies initially survive purely on breast milk or formula; we then slowly introduce solid foods whilst they still receive a large proportion of their nutrition from their milk/formula intake. Once they reach 12 month, most children are eating adequate amounts of a varied diet, so they don’t depend on milk for as much nutrition. So how much milk should I be feeding my toddler? Is too much milk a bad thing? What type of milk should I give my toddler? Hopefully we will answer these questions below:

How much milk does my toddler need?

The Australian dietary guidelines suggest that children aged between 4-8 years consume 600ml of milk/day and less if they are younger. So what does that mean for my 2 year old?

If we look at the amount of calcium a toddler needs for growth, the recommended daily allowance (RDI) for children aged 1-3 years is 500mg. Just 2 cups of milk (500ml milk) provides 590mg of calcium, slight exceeding the RDI. However many other foods our children eat contain calcium; 200g yoghurt (324mg calcium), 30g cheese (255mg calcium), 50g tin of salmon (155mg salmon) are just a few examples.

Most toddlers need a maximum of 2 glasses of milk/day – as a general rule. And if they receive less, and consume a more varied diet – even better!

Is too much milk a bad thing?

Unfortunately the answer here is, YES! Milk is a food that has great satiety (satisfies the tummy for long periods). Following the consumption of just a small glass of milk, your toddler might not feel hungry and therefore turn away other foods. Long term this can lead to deficiencies, if your child always has milk instead of a balanced and nutritious diet.

Too much milk can also have other negative effects on the body. Too much calcium can interfere with ion absorption, which has been linked to fussy eating. Sipping on milk can also lead to increased risk of tooth decay. So give you toddlers a glass of milk, rather than a bottle that they sip on over a longer period of time.

An interesting point, if a toddler consumes a 300ml glass of milk – they have consumed 20% of the energy they need for the day!

What milk should I choose for my toddler?

We recently discussed this in another post, but this is a topic Mums often ask about.

From 12 months of age children are recommended to have Full Cream Milk. Other dairy foods such as full cream cheese and yoghurt can be introduced from 6 months. Once a child reaches the age of 2 it is recommended by the National Dietary Guidelines for Children and Adolescents that they consume reduced-fat milk.

For information about choosing the right milk for your family checkout ‘Whick milk to choose for my family.’

Sally Muir – dietitian

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